The UK's reputation as a nation of "poor linguists" who are reluctant to value languages other than English must be changed, MPs and peers have warned.
Languages are as important to the UK's future as science and maths-based subjects, and more needs to be done to ensure these skills are recognised and encouraged, according to an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the subject.
It has published a new "manifesto for languages" calling for a national recovery programme aimed at boosting the numbers of people who can speak another language besides English.
The document says that knowledge of other languages, and other cultures, is important not only for education and skills, but for the economy, international and community relations, defence and security.
Without a "step change" in the UK's attitude towards and ability in languages, the UK's economy will suffer, young people will be unable to compete with their peers internationally and the nation's international reputation will be damaged, it says.
"We need sustained action across the UK to revive national competence in languages and to arrest the growing tendency for language learning to be the preserve of an intellectual or affluent elite," the APPG said.
The group said it wants all political parties to make a commitment in their manifestos for next year's general election to improving the nation's language skills.
This includes a long-term commitment to "transforming the reputation of UK citizens as poor linguists, reluctant to value languages other than English".
"Languages are as important for our future as STEM subjects," the document says. "Leadership is needed to ensure they are given similar recognition."
It goes on to say that there should be high-quality language learning for all children from age seven, and a goal of all children gaining a good language qualification by the end of secondary school.
Businesses and employers should be involved in tackling the issue, and there should be a commitment to "maintaining and developing UK expertise in modern languages and cultures in university language departments", the APPG said.
The group warned that the number of students taking language degrees is at a record low, with 44 universities scrapping courses since 2000, adding that evidence suggests that only 9% of English 15-year-olds are competent in their first foreign language beyond a basic level.
APPG chair Baroness Coussins said: "The next government will need to take clear, urgent and coherent action to upgrade the UK's foreign language skills.
"Otherwise our young people will continue to fall behind their European and global peers in education and employability; our export growth will be stunted; our international reputation will suffer and our security, defence and diplomacy needs will be compromised."
Ian Bauckham, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "It's clear that young people are missing out on good jobs because of a lack of foreign language skills. While there has been an increase in the numbers of students taking languages at GCSE, there are still many who choose to drop the subject at A-level.
"Schools cannot solve this problem alone. We are supporting this approach because it includes employers, political parties, and universities, all making a commitment to address the issue."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "After years of decline, our reforms are driving a languages revival in schools.
"We are making it compulsory for children to learn a foreign language from age seven to 14, a move supported by 91% of respondents to our consultation on languages in primary schools. And our EBacc means thousands more pupils are now studying languages at secondary school - almost half of state-school pupils entered languages at GCSE last year, the highest level for seven years."
"We are spending £350,000 over the next year so primary and secondary teachers improve their teaching of languages."